Berman goes negative on Sherman with new website
The two veteran Democrats are vying for the same San Fernando Valley district seat this fall in one of the most expensive, widely watched -- and increasingly contentious -- House races in the nation.
Berman, of Valley Village, has seen some major changes to his campaign since finishing 10 percentage points behind Brad Sherman, of Sherman Oaks, in the June 5 primary.
Berman's brother and longtime political consultant, Michael Berman, has stepped down from overseeing strategy, although he still is involved in the campaign. Brandon Hall, who shared campaign oversight with Michael Berman during the primary, recently has taken the reins, Hall has confirmed.
The website, which the Berman campaign plans to update every Monday, adds a sharply negative tone to its strategy. Its first installment, for example, claims that Sherman has been able to pass just three pieces of legislation during his 15 years in the House. It also features an internal memo in which Sherman talks about his "standing policy" to have his staff look for opportunities for him to co-sponsor bills once they have passed out of a committee with significant Democratic support or on a voice vote.
Sherman's campaign acknowledged the memo is authentic but Parke Skelton, Sherman's chief strategist, said he fails to see what's bad about it.
"The Berman campaign has somehow obtained an unknown number of internal documents from Congressman Sherman's office," Skelton said, "and they release one which states that Congressman Sherman wants his staff to continue a long-standing policy of identifying good bipartisan legislation that he can assess and decide whether to co-sponsor and work to pass on the floor. That's the best hit they can find?"
Hall said the memo instead shows Sherman "just wants to sign onto bills that are already moving -- regardless of policy."
Noting the Berman campaign also criticizes Sherman for co-sponsoring measures to rename post offices, Skelton said Berman also has co-sponsored such bills, which require support from every member of Congress from the state in which the post office sits. He implied the website indicates Berman "must be getting pretty desperate."
During the primary, the Berman campaign stayed mainly positive while the Sherman campaign sent out mail to voters criticizing Berman's attendance record and many taxpayer-funded trips abroad. (Berman is the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.)
Photo: Reps. Howard Berman, left, and Brad Sherman shake hands following a candidates forum in January. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times